There is currently not much news that is not related to corona virus. It feels overwhelming. Does anyone else miss Brexit? The nationwide block on Monday should last at least three weeks – this uncertainty is particularly worrying. However, some developments are particularly important, such as the adoption by the UK Parliament of specific legislation to combat the spread and damage of the virus.
What specific rules apply and how do they affect British citizens?
Obviously, new and comprehensive laws are needed to give government and public services greater powers during the coronavirus pandemic. The Health Protection Ordinance (Coronavirus) 2020 provides powers to deal with the ongoing crisis and consists of four key categories: “Improving capacity and flexible staffing; Relaxation of legal and official requirements; contain and slow down the virus; and manage the deceased. "
One of the most important (and necessary) powers is the ability to restrict events and to force rooms and premises such as pubs and clubs to close. Boris Johnson ordered pubs to close on Friday 20th, and many venues had already closed voluntarily the previous week. However, this bill formalized and clarified future legal powers. It enables the UK government to use the authorities to prevent people from entering the premises and to close organized events by force.
The new law also specifies how people can volunteer to help reduce pressure on key areas of the NHS and social services. In addition, recently retired medical staff and new or nearly qualified medical students can work immediately, offering special protection against possible negligence claims.
There are some particularly morbid details about death registration (feel free to skip a paragraph). Doctors can sign death certificates without seeing a patient's body – which seems surprising – and only a doctor's medical certificate needs to cremate a body (in England and Wales), reversing reforms that have been initiated by Harold Shipmans Actions came to light.
Due to the urgent and temporary nature of the legislation, a formal impact assessment was not required. Despite being drafted, the bill was not subjected to the usual analysis and review processes in just a few days.
In the first draft law, despite Johnson's repeated assertion that the worst will be over in twelve weeks, these powers would have remained in place for two years. However, an amendment by Harriet Harman von Labor, chair of the Human Rights Committee, argued that this legislation should be discussed and renewed every six months: the government has since introduced its own amendment in the same way.
Journalist Carole Cadwalladr tweeted notes sent to her by an experienced lawyer who raised concerns about some details of the bill. "In essence, the proposed law is more far-reaching than fighting the virus," they said, citing: "Substantial changes to the NHS and social care, including denial of treatment and charging for treatment, not just for a large number of people Corona viruses. " Cases ”and“ drastic measures that allow police and immigration officers to detain people for up to 48 hours. "
This legislation allows police officers and immigration officers to "arrest or isolate a person who is or may be infectious during normal functions at the border or during immigration enforcement functions in the country." The lack of specificity here, as well as widespread paranoia, could easily be abused: could someone be considered contagious for coughs?
Similarly, David Allen Green – a very experienced and useful legal commentator – provided an astute analysis of the first draft. "No expansion of police violence should ever be nodded off," he tweeted. "Any expansion of state power has a ratchet effect – as twenty years of terrorism legislation show," he explains. "If the executive can take power, it will, especially if it can be justified by emergencies."
Certain clauses also allow councils that offer a lot of social care to prioritize care for those who are considered most at risk. Disability and human rights activists have warned that this could easily endanger elderly and disabled people, depending on the precise definition of "most vulnerable".
About the new bill, the charity Disability rights UK said that "given the already broken social care system, this bill will almost inevitably leave many thousands of disabled people with no substantial support or rights to request this support."
These are, of course, immediate measures and hopefully will only be activated if absolutely necessary. However, it appears to be a flawed strategy to further endanger them (both generally and specifically by coronavirus). Let us hope that such provisions never need to be applied.
There is much to criticize about the UK government's response to the corona virus – and much can be attributed to them. When all of this is over, there has to be serious thought and analysis whenever possible. Until then, it's a waiting game.
What does the UK Corona Virus Bill mean?
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